Everybody Can Now Get A COVID-19 Vaccine In China
Li Shurui didn’t hesitate. Faced with putting his life on hold indefinitely or the risk of catching COVID-19 by returning to university in the U.K., the 22-year-old business student decided to roll up his sleeve and receive an experimental coronavirus vaccine.
Two injections of CoronaVac made by SinoVac (otherwise known as Beijing Kexing Bioproducts) cost 2,000 rmb ($300) at the private Taihe Hospital in the Chinese capital. The treatment still hasn’t passed final (Stage 3) clinical trials but is already being offered to the public on a first come, first served basis. Anyone can turn up, pay their money and get the jab. Li says hundreds were queuing to get immunized at the same time as him.
“I’m a little worried about side effects but more worried catching the virus overseas,” says Li . “But I haven’t had any problems from the jabs so far.”
It’s not just the CoronaVac vaccine on offer in China. An unofficial vaccine rollout is gathering pace despite the warnings of international public health experts. In September, state-owned SinoPharm revealed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had already taken its experimental COVID-19 vaccines as part of a state initiative to protect frontline health workers and officials traveling to high-risk nations. In the eastern manufacturing hub of Yiwu this week, hundreds of people queued for a $60 dose of CoronaVac.
“This is insane,” Adam Kamradt-Scott, associate professor specializing in global health security at the University of Sydney, says of China’s gung-ho vaccine rollout. “It is just unsound public health practice. We have previous examples of where vaccines that have not gone through sufficient clinical trials have demonstrated adverse reactions with long-term health consequences.”
But it’s not just China that’s getting ahead of itself. U.S. President Donald Trump has put enormous public pressure on regulators and pharmaceutical companies to make a vaccine available in time for the American election. On Oct. 16, Pfizer revealed it may begin rolling out its vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. by late November. Moderna has a similar timeline for emergency use, though cautions widespread vaccine distribution may not happen until the spring.